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PAC queries excess gratuity sent to regional referral hospitals

Lira Hospital Director Dr. J.S.O Obbo before PAC. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)-Central Government is investigating the excess funds that were released by the Ministry of Finance to regional referral hospitals for gratuity in the last financial year.

The matter stems from the June 2021 audit report in which Auditor General John Muwanga queried low absorption of funds meant for payment of salaries, pension, and gratuity in the financial year 2020/2021.

Muwanga in his report to Parliament, cited Lira Regional Referral Hospital where 5.97 billion Shillings was spent on salaries, pension, and gratuity out of the total receipts of 7.48 billion shillings resulting in an unabsorbed balance of 1.5 billion shillings.

According to Lira Regional Referral Hospital documents sent to PAC on Wednesday, the Director Dr. J.S.O Obbo says that unspent gratuity was a result of excessive allocation over and above the entity’s needs and that the Ministry of Finance was informed of the correct hospital gratuity and pension in a letter sent to the Secretary to Treasury.

The letter dated 24th March 2020, indicates that the entity required a total of 801.5 million shillings for 108 pensioners (663.3 million) and 3 gratuity beneficiaries (138.2 million). The actual releases to the hospital indicate that a total of 638.9 million shillings was sent by finance ministry for gratuity.

Dr. Obbo said that all the excess money that could not be spent was returned to the Consolidated Fund.

Bob Okae, the Kwania North MP questioned whether the hospital management notified the Ministry of Finance about the excess funds sent to them in regard to gratuity, but Dr. Obbo had no evidence to this effect apart from the letter indicating what the hospital required.

Asuman Basalirwa, the Vice-Chairperson PAC noted that the committee was taking a keen interest in the issue, saying that they had observed a pattern with regional referral hospitals being sent money over and above their need by the Ministry of Finance.

“I think there is a pattern…we saw it with Mubende Regional Referral Hospital and we are seeing it with Lira. I am beginning to suspect that the Ministry of Finance is conniving with some of these hospitals to steal money. Otherwise, up to now…I don’t see any justification for the Ministry sending releases over and above what was asked by a hospital,” said Basalirwa.

Basalirwa directed that the Lira Hospital Director avail the committee a list of those that were paid gratuity by Friday this week. He also directed that the hospital management avails evidence of sending back money to the Consolidated Fund.

Xavier Kyooma, the Ibanda South MP also wondered why the hospital management held onto money on its account that they did not need yet other hospitals required it for expenditure.

On Tuesday, PAC also observed that while Mubende Regional Referral Hospital requested 408.2 million Shillings for gratuity, the Ministry of Finance released 1.2 billion to the health facility.

Dr. Alex Andema, the Hospital Director said that they could not spend 700 Million Shillings sent by the ministry since it was in excess of what they had requested.

The committee learned that the hospital management did not also make an official report to the Ministry of Finance regarding the excess funds.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP questioned the motive behind releasing more money to entities that have not requested it.

PAC plans to summon officials from the Ministry of Finance to explain the anomalies.

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